Monthly Archives: August 2011

Summer Photo Fun

We are sad to report that summer is just about over– no more vacations, days by the pool and carefree thoughts. After all those summer memories you’ve created with your loved ones, we’re sure you have a plethora of photos that need organizing! Follow these tips and tricks on storing and displaying your summer photos for everyone to enjoy.

PHOTO ORGANIZATION

One of the most daunting tasks is organizing your hundreds of summer photos before the beginning of fall. Whether you opt for real photo albums or digital ones, we’ve got both topics covered. When assembling a photo album, it seem the best method of organization is chronologically. Start by grouping photos by year, then month. Make sure you label the photos as you insert them in the album. For some extra help sorting photos, try a keepsake keeperto save precious time. The keeper provides easily accessible folders and tabs for sorting, and custom exterior labels and photos sleeves. Use the 12 roomy sections to sort photos by date or any category you choose!

Keepsake Keeper

For some more photo tips we have an expert from the photography world, Peter Medilek, a San Francisco photographer with a variety of high profile clients (check out his beautiful portfolio here http://www.petermedilek.com/). In terms of organizing photos, Peter says, “I usually create an online folder for each project or event. I rename each digital file with the folder name and assign an individual. After the project is completed, I back up the final files on an external hard drive and burn a DVD.” If you prefer to stay away from online work, simply create the sub-folders according to date or event under a  larger “Pictures” folder on your computer. If you prefer working in the digital world, try Blurb or Shutterfly for an easy experience you can share with friends and family. Peter shares, “For large events with many guests, I like uploading the selected files to www.shutterfly.com. It’s easy to send out invites to the online album, and everybody can order reprints individually. For special occasions, I like printing photo books. My favorite is www.blurb.com; great software and quality.”

If you’re keeping photos in an album after all, there are a couple tips you should remember to keep photos looking great all year round. Peter recommends storing photos on a dry shelf, just as you would books. Avoid storing photos in high heat locations to prevent damage.

6 Section Photo Tray

Coffee tables are also great for showcasing photo albums you want your guests to flip through. For a coffee table display, try a 6 section photo storage tray. The photo compartments can be sorted by date or event, and each compartment has a built-in frame so you can display your favorite image of the bunch for everyone to see.

FUN PHOTO FACTS 

Another common photo question concern is the type of paper used for printing. We wonder which we should use: glossy or matte? We’ve found that semi glossy paper seems best for scrapbooking and displaying photos. The paper won’t stick to surfaces as much as pure glossy paper and will maintain a high color vibrancy. Peter adds, “Most durable is the good old fashioned photo pare ( FUJI, Kodak, Agfa).  For more paper choices select from ink jet paper (Epson, Hahnemuehle), especially the Gallery versions of the ink jet paper, which claim to last for at least 100 years.”

Now that you’ve got all your photos printed, it’s time to choose some extra special ones to display around the house. The key is not to overdo it; no one likes to be surrounded by hundreds of photos in every room! We found that if you treat your photo collections as a large piece of art, they will come together magically. Peter tells us, “Too many small and different picture frame styles can be overwhelming. I like my friend’s idea that all family pictures are displayed on one wall, they are all black and white images, and the frames are all dark wood stained (wenge/ black); looks very artistic. I personally have a few oversize images framlessly mounted to the walls. We mix in a couple of smaller frames and images. If you like to show a lot of pictures, create a grid of frames that match each others dimension and style.”

Stackable Photo Boxes

For smaller displays that you can place on desks or counters, try single stackable photo boxes. The photo boxes allow you to store your prized memories at your fingertips and let you choose your favorite image to display in the built in frame. Create a unique, vibrant display with multiple photo boxes that you can arrange anywhere in any way. So parents, now that you have the tools and tips to organize your photos, make sure you hop to the task before your summer memories end up at the bottom of a drawer yet again!

For more information about products and ordering, visit www.greatusefulstuff.com

Conquering the Messy Room Muddle

Throughout this summer, GUS has been hosting a special Facebook contest for everyone suffering from a messy room. Our messy room makeover contest currently has 22 entries and believe us, some of those rooms are serious disasters and very worthy of our $400 makeover prize! Look at what Charlotte’s six-year-old has done to her room… Is she hiding under there?! In honor of our contest coming to an end on August 31st, we’ve come up with a post with tips and tricks to help you and your family organize those messy rooms once and for all.

THE STORAGE DILEMMA 

Maximizing space in any bedroom is always a tricky problem to solve. Whether you’re moving your child into a new dorm room or just reorganizing your own room, it’s important to use roll out bins for under bed storage. Under bed storage is essential for knick-knacks (sewing supplies, old photos, etc.) or clothing that doesn’t need to be in a closet (bathing suits, scarves, etc.). Try collapsible shoe box storage bins for any item you can think of! The boxes have a clear vinyl front so you can easily see the contents.

Collapsible Shoe Storage

Wall shelving is another easy storage solution that is often overlooked. For example, instead of adding an extra bookshelf and taking up more floor space, try installing two or three decorative shelves.

OFFICE ORGANIZATION 

Filing systems are among the most useful office tools but are often the most difficult to set up. We’re giving you a few organizing ideas for you filing systems so you’ll finally get it right this time! Kids should have their own filing system for school subjects, homework/projects in progress and schedules. Your child should clean out his/her binders every 1-2 weeks and file the older papers. Parents can add to the schedules folder and include to-do tasks and other important information for extracurricular activities. Parents, make sure your filing system has spots for unread/read mail, bills, handouts from school functions, and to-dos. Looking for somewhere to store your smaller papers besides the bottom of a purse or drawer?

Shopping Organizer

Try a shopping organizer perfectly labeled for receipts, coupons and gift cards. The organizer is big enough to hang up and small enough to take with you everywhere! Cord control is also an issue in any room in the house. Cords are unsightly, hazardous to keep out in the open and instantly make a room look tangled up. Nowadays, it’s useful to mark your cords to avoid confusion about which to use when. I personally keep all my cords tangled in a ziplock bag, but i’ve finally found a solution to my problems! A cord box has eight labeled compartments to hold wires and small tech devices. The box has double snap closure so everything stays in place, but the best part is it’s stylishly made out of woven grass cloth with a rich leatherette trim.

Cord Box

 KIDS CATASTROPHE

Parents, we know as soon as you organize a room your little ones run in to mess it up yet again. We’ve got some easy tools that even your kids will love in their newly organized room! Try lightweight chalkboard bins for smaller items like magazines, art supplies and legos. The bins have chalkboard fabric fronts so your kids can have fun decorating their own unique bins and can be stored virtually anywhere because of their size.

Chalkboard Bins

For larger items, get a strong and roomy kids toy box. The Joey and Jane toy box is collapsible and stackable, and made with heavy duty fabric in signature Joey and Jane colors.

Joey & Jane Toy Box

We hope we’ve inspired you to get your messy room back in order, but if you still need some inspiration, check out our contest entries at our Facebook page– we know they’ll get you cleaning! 

For more information about products and ordering, visit www.greatusefulstuff.com

Beating the Back-to-School Blues

Well parents, it’s that time of year again: back-to-school. Every parent knows that means countless shopping trips for new supplies and clothes, and nagging about why summer has to end. But we’ve found some ways to make your life and your child’s life much easier as you both transition into the new school year. Read on to hear our tips and tricks for getting back into the groove of school!

SCHOOL SUPPLIES 101

To get your school supply shopping underway, the first step is to create a list. Usually, teachers will provide families with a list of necessities for the year, but don’t forget the very basics that often don’t show up on the list (pencils, erasers, highlighters, etc). While making your adding on to your list, reorganize the desks your kids will be using. This will give you a better sense of what you have and need, and allow your child to create a better studying space. Eileen Roth, speaker and author of Organizing for Dummies, says parents should “establish a place for excess supplies like pens/pencils, erasers, staples, where everyone can find what they need. Have extra paper, spirals and folders for students. Keep paper supplies on horizontal trays or in clear boxes.” A school wally is a fantastic tool to help keep your kids and your home organized during the school year.

School Wally

The wally conveniently has compartments to fit papers, notebooks and folders for six subjects. It also includes slots for supplies and electronics, and has a handy whiteboard where kids can note their important activities. Carol Frazey from Fit School Inc. encourages parents to “start a family calendar. Have each person write-in his/her activities, meetings, sports and activity practices, and appointments on ONE calendar centrally located in your home” (check out Fit School’s informative site www.TheFitSchool.com). If you have a calendar but still feel like you can’t keep track of the day’s activities (it can be tough, we know), try a 2do Memo Board.

2do Memo Board

The board is divided into four functional sections: a whiteboard for tasks on your mind, a chalkboard for lists, two cork boards with slots to organize your contacts, and quick-hang lines for invitations, cards, and other pleasant “etceteras.” Finally, one of the easiest and most important things to do before school is research. Jane Bailey, Dean of the School of Education at Post University, says, “Take a look at your school or district’s website and hunt for information about your child’s new curriculum. Look for the ‘big picture’ learnings ahead. For example: the big part of first grade is learning to read.”

BACK-TO-SCHOOL EMOTIONS

Parents, don’t think that you’re off the hook once you nail down all those school supplies. The next step is getting your child out of bed at 7 a.m. and in the car on-time. We’ve found some ways to help ease your child back into the school day routine one step at a time. Jane Bailey suggests to “start setting the alarm clock earlier in the morning and ease into an earlier bedtime routine.” She also says, “Buy your child a journal to write about his/her ‘Adventures in 3rd Grade.’ Have him/her start the diary now and write about the end of summer activities, and encourage your child to write how she/he is feeling about the school year ahead.” Give your child a kids desktop organizerto help them keep everything they need for the school day right at hand. Packing up for the day is made simple with this foldable, totable organizer that fits in a backpack. We promise your child will be out the door in no time!

Kids Desktop Organizer

Candi Wingate, President of Nannies4Hire (http://www.nannies4hire.com/index.asp), also tells us that “if your kids are transitioning to a new school building, visit the school building with your kids. If your schedule permits, volunteer to help out in your kids’ classrooms. (Before you volunteer, ask your kids how they’d feel if you did this).” These easy steps will reduce back-to-school anxiety for your child and leave you feeling relieved.

Keepsake Keeper

Finally, take some photos of your little ones growing up and entering a new grade.With a keepsake keeper, you can file, sort and save your most prized memories, like your child’s first day of high school. Keep taking photos throughout the year and look back at them next summer with your child for a treat you’ll both enjoy!

For more information about products and ordering, visit www.greatusefulstuff.com

Direction for the Dorm Room Diva

It’s almost that time of year again– back-to-school is quickly approaching! For all us college students (and our parents) this is an incredibly stressful time. What do I pack? Will all my clothes fit in that tiny closet? Where do I shop for room decor? Because experienced college students know the back-to-school routine best, we’ve asked three college bloggers to help us answer our dorm room questions!

THE CRAMPED CLOSET

For us girls, maximizing our closet space is perhaps the most difficult issue to solve. In most dorm rooms, you’re either forced to share a small walk-in closet or are given your own even smaller closet. So what to do? Alex, a blogger for the popular college site www.hercampus.com (check out her informative personal youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/XelaMakeUp), tells us she makes the most of her closet space by hanging only nice blouses, dress and jackets. She adds, “Along the floor of the closet you can place some small pull out drawers. Then you could either store your shoes on top of those shelves or get a door hanging shoe storage device.”

Ashley, a college student in the Boston area (check out her fun favorite things blog http://gcet.tumblr.com/), says she uses drawer dividers in her dresser where she stores underwear, socks, leggings, sports clothes, t-shirts, and pj’s. For the closet she uses a double expander rod and takes advantage of under-bed storage (if your bed isn’t lofted, you can buy bed risers).

Carly Heitlinger (check out her energetc, preppy blog http://www.thecollegeprepster.com/) has a great suggestion for us East Coast college goers: “The minute the weather starts cooling off in D.C., I have my mom send my pre-packed Fall/Winter wardrobe up to school. I use the boxes she sent me to return my summer wardrobe. Rotating my closet literally doubles my wardrobe space!”

In addition to these great space saving tips and tricks, try hanging accessory organizers.

Hang-Hers Jewelry Organizer

The new Hang-Hers collection has 4 hanging organizers to store and systematize glasses, jewelry, belts, purses, and more. The hanging organizers are perfect for inside your closet, outside the door and even in the bathroom. Each organizer has a bright label on the side so when it’s hanging, it’s even easier to find the perfect accessories for that new outfit!

BATHROOM BLUES

The bathroom is the second most obvious problem for us girls. If we can’t share a bathroom with one girl, how are we expected to do so with four girls?

5-piece Vanity Set

Alex says, “I think it is best to use a shower rack and carry things back and forth from the bathroom in that rack. This prevents any confusion and mix up when it comes to your products.” Try a 5-piece Vanity Setfor carrying your products to and from the bathroom. The set comes with a variety of mesh container sizes so you can store everything from toothbrushes to hair brushes with ease. Looking for a single larger tote? Try a mesh bath tote with various sized pockets to store all of your essentials.

Mesh Bath Tote

Ashley also agrees that keeping cosmetics and hair products in your own room keeps the bathroom cleaner. However, she says, “I would give each person a small section to store shampoo and shower essentials. Make a cleaning schedule because a messy bathroom can cause tension.”

OTHER DORM ROOM IDEAS

Closet and bathroom space is definitely limited and valuable for us college students, so we have a few other tricks up our sleeve to help you out. A hair dryer hanger is a perfect space saver, especially if you share a bathroom. My hair dryer currently sits tangled up in my desk drawer, but a hanger allows you to keep it on a towel bar with the cord stacked neatly.

Hair Dryer Hanger

Nail polish storage is also a tricky one for us, but Alex says, “Try using a container like the one that you would use to store spices in a kitchen cabinet. This way you can see all of your nail polish colors and there is no risk of them breaking since they aren’t stored in one bag.” Finally, GUS has a brand new back-to-school collection that includes everything a college student might need, from laundry totes to file boxes. There you have it, girls. Now go unleash your inner dorm room diva!

For more information about products and ordering, visit www.greatusefulstuff.com

Secrets for Healthy Hollywood Hair

One thing most women spend almost too much time on is their hair. Whether you have long, short, curly, or straight hair, it always seems to be a struggle getting your hair to look flawless (unless you’re the Kardashians, of course). But us normal folk sometimes forget that the keys to perfect hair lie in the basics of hair care. We looked to hair stylist and salon owner Greg Griffin (check out his fun filled site equipped with a blog and more http://www.barberlounge.com/) to give us some tips and tricks to help keep our locks as healthy as can be.

BRUSHES GALORE

Choosing a hair brush can be an overwhelming task. Not only are there countless styles, but also we can hardly distinguish when to use each brush! We’ve done some research and nailed down a few key brushes we think every girl should have. 

1. Paddle Hair Brush. A paddle hair brush is typically larger, flat, and wide with an oval or rectangular head. The bristles sit on an air cushion and can be boar, nylon or a mix of both. This is your everyday hair brush you often see in drugstores because it’s used for smoothing, detangling and adding shine. Don’t worry about your hair type, this brush works for everyone!

2. Round Thermal Hair Brush. A round hair brush has bristles around the entire head of the brush and is usually ceramic. This brush is typically used for blow drying and styling hair; experiment with different brush sizes to create larger or smaller curls, or simply blow dry straight.

3. Vent Hair Brush. Vent hair brushes have holes in the middle of the base to allow air to pass through the brush for faster blow drying. These brushes also add volume and detangle those difficult knots in any hair.

Now that you know what brushes you should have, Greg Gifford tells us perhaps the most important thing to remember about our new tools. He says, “The best way to clean out a brush is to use a wide-tooth comb, and comb out any hair and debris that has collected. It’s a good idea to do this every few months or when [the brush] starts looking gross. About twice a year use a clarifying shampoo on your brush to remove product build-up, and lay flat on a towel to dry.”

HOT HAIR TOOLS

Flat irons and hair dryers can be scary to use on your precious locks, so make sure you do your research and invest in tools that minimize heat damage. Choose hair dryers and flat irons that are made of quality ceramic, not just ceramic coated. For flat irons, buy one with a temperature control so you can choose a temperature best for your hair type. Another plus? A quality hair straightener will have the ability to curl and manipulate hair as well– in fact, my favorite curler is my straightener!

When styling hair, use product to protect from heat and make your job easier. Because hair product will often build up on your flat iron, Greg recommends to “use an alcohol pad or a paper towel with some windex. This should remove any residual burnt on product.”  In terms of build up for hair dryers he says, “On most hair dryers you can unscrew the back and take out the filter. You can use a comb to comb out the lint or if it gets really bad you can request a new one from the manufacturer.” Make sure to take proper care of your styling tools to ensure a longer life span. Try storing your hair dryer, flat iron and curling iron in a hair styling station. The station also hides cords and has ceramic interior liners perfect for your hot accessories.

Hair Styling Station

HELPFUL HAIR HINTS

What you put in your hair is equally as important as buying the right hair tools. We admit to having some hair products for well over a year, so is it time for us to toss our goods? Greg says, “Most products have a 2 year shelf life. For hair care products and shampoos, there is a little more leeway on the expiration dates; you could probably push it another year or so. It also depends on how it’s stored, if the lid has been kept on tightly and if it’s been stored at room temperature out of direct sunlight.” Speaking of shampoo and conditioner, we also confess to having at least four different types in our shower at a time. Are you actually supposed to switch up shampoo/conditioner to reduce build-up? Greg admits, “This is a tricky one; if you find a shampoo that works great for your hair it’s okay to stick with it. If you are heavy handed with products it’s a good idea to use a clarifying shampoo once a week to clean off any product build up.” Need help organizing all those bottles in the bathroom? Keep products right by your side with a snap-on bottle organizer, perfect to place over a towel bar, shower rod or shower door.

Snap-on Bottle Organizer

For something smaller and more portable, we recommend a waterproof mesh bath tote. This is especially handy for travel and showers in college dorm bathrooms.

Mesh Bath Tote

Now that we’ve given you our tips and tricks, go tend to those luscious locks!

For more information about products and ordering, visit www.greatusefulstuff.com.